We’re so thrilled that we were able to take some time with Bryce Button, Director of Product Marketing, AJA Video Systems to discuss various developments at AJA in relation to the exciting evolution we are seeing in the industry such as the new M1 silicone chips for Macs, post pros sharing timelines and content across the internet via streaming, editors working remotely and requiring flexibility, the rise of virtual production and the growth of HDR delivery demands. So, start scrolling and find out what’s happening at AJA, an industry leader in the video and broadcast markets.
Los Angeles Post Production Group: It must be such a challenge with technology changing so quickly and so often. For example, Apple® has introduced its new M1 silicon chip for iMac, MacBook Air and Mac Mini, with rumors that the future MacBook Pro will also feature this powerful Arm-based chip. So, are AJA’s cards and software now compatible with Apple M1 systems?
Bryce Button: Hardware platform changes from computer manufacturers are always a complex transition, both for the company itself and for third-parties looking to extend software compatibility with new chips. AJA has now released Desktop Software v16.1, which adds support for Apple M1 chips to 19 AJA KONA, Io, and T-TAP Pro products. Desktop Software v16.1 is optimized to deliver native Apple M1 support for AJA macOS drivers and application plug-ins, plus AJA Control Room, AJA Control Panel, and AJA System Test and NMOS software, allowing users to harness the power and cost-efficiency of Apple M1 compatible systems for professional video I/O tasks.
LAPPG: As we all have experienced, during the pandemic, there has been a growing need for post professionals to share timelines and access content across the internet via streaming. How does AJA support these streaming needs, and can you discuss any recent advances?
BB: The new Desktop Software v16.1 release improves Telestream Wirecast support for KONA, Io and T-TAP Pro products, including 4K I/O via 12G-/6G-SDI, digital AES audio input, and analog (line level) audio input. AJA’s KONA 4 and KONA 5 cards with multichannel SDI support are used with streaming apps, including vMix and Telestream, for input from sources and output onto streaming platforms, as well as integrations with various third-party software companies to receive streamed timeline playback for playout at a local system. For example, Colorfront’s Transkoder software, with SRT support, can be used to receive a color grading session timeline from anywhere in the world, then play it out locally to a broadcast or HDMI monitor through a KONA card or T-TAP Pro. This type of flexibility facilitated by AJA’s I/O products is a testament to the wide range of solutions they provide outside of pure ingest and output.
For additional streaming needs, using a simple setup with AJA’s HELO H.264 standalone streaming, recording and encoding device, editors can stream the timeline output from NLEs via HELO to private CDNs for review by remote production teams. More complex productions can use AJA’s BRIDGE LIVE multi-channel HD / single channel UltraHD enterprise-level streaming solution within a machine room to provide multiple editors with access to streams for review and approval.
LAPPG: We’ve heard that AJA recently released the new PAK Dock Pro. What are the benefits of this media reader for editors?
BB: Many productions use AJA’s Ki Pro Ultra digital video recorders, which can encode captured material to either Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHR® / DNxHD®. The new PAK Dock Pro features USB-C connectivity and provides faster transfer of files from PAK media drives used in the Ki Pro Ultra 12G and other Ki Pro models, while also offering broad compatibility with NLE systems.
The connection is rated at 10GB/second, and the transfer rates depend on the PAK media model and host computer workflow, among other factors. In most production environments, the PAK Dock Pro is around 10-20% faster than the previous PAK Dock, amounting to a significant time savings for editors.
LAPPG: We all know especially after this past year, editors are required to be flexible and adapt to working in a variety of different environments at a moment’s notice, making mobility a key factor in equipment choices. What new product(s) do you have to address this?
BB: The new T-TAP Pro is a versatile Thunderbolt™ 3-connected device that simplifies very high-quality 4K/UltraHD and 2K/HD/SD monitoring and output over 12G-SDI and HDMI from compatible Mac or PC desktop and laptop computers, enabling editors and post professionals to work efficiently from home or any location. T-TAP Pro is ideally suited for USB-C connectivity on Macs or PCs and features high-performance support for 4K and HDR, as well as RGB 4:4:4 12-bit support for large format narrative and episodic productions, and 4:2:2 10-bit support for broadcast or AV environments.
Essential for editors, T-TAP Pro offers HDR metadata auto playback detection, as well as a local headphone jack allowing professionals to monitor timelines and more while working in loud environments. It is also driven by our powerful and feature rich application plug-ins, offering out-of-the-box compatibility with Media Composer, Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, and many others.
LAPPG: We’ve been taking note of virtual production as a growing industry trend, due to affordability and the merging of efficient production and post technologies. How do AJA’s products fit into this trend?
BB: Virtual production essentially combines a range of workflows and pipelines, drawing from traditional production, post and gaming techniques. Rather than shooting actors, hosts or scenes against greenscreens, VFX components are integrated into sets using real-time game engine technologies that drive screens both as background – and occasionally, foreground – elements. Using game engines, these virtual elements can be tracked in a 3D space to match the movement of the camera itself.
Producers and studios are excited about this growth, as it has potential to decrease lengthy post processes, offers cost efficiencies, and provides actors or hosts with more of a realistic sense of the environment that they’re performing in.
AJA’s KONA 5 is being used in many of these virtual production environments, whether working in combination with the Unreal Engine to playout materials for screens at appropriate raster sizes and frame rates, or when engaged in real-time interactions with virtual set technologies to simplify production and post processes across the board.
Today, for editors or VFX artists, this effectively means that traditional post elements are actually being created earlier in the production process to be used on set in a real-time environment.
LAPPG: HDR demands from delivery platforms, including Netflix, Apple TV and beyond, are growing. How do AJA’s I/O products assist in creative processes to meet these burgeoning demands?
BB: With Desktop Software v16, HDR over SDI is available on select AJA KONA and Io products and T-TAP Pro. The included AJA Control Panel software features a redesigned HDR tab, offering controls for HDR to be signaled via both SDI and HDMI simultaneously. New HDR capabilities for AJA Control Room and AJA Control Panel include the addition of HDR metadata capture and HDR auto playback detection for ease of use for critical monitoring applications.
AJA is also working closely with all NLE, graphics and color correction partners, as they bring further HDR support to their offerings.